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Business of the House

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 7 July 2011

The business for the week commencing 11 July will include:

Monday 11 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the European Union Bill, followed by motion to approve European documents relating to rights and protection of victims.

Tuesday 12 July—Motion relating to the retirement of the Clerk of the House, followed by Second Reading of the Public Bodies Bill [Lords], followed by if necessary consideration of Lords amendments.

Wednesday 13 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, followed by Opposition day [20th allotted day] [Half day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 14 July—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Sovereign Grant Bill.

The provisional business for the week commencing 18 July will include:

Monday 18 July—Motions relating to national policy statements. Motion to approve the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England.

Tuesday 19 July—General debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment, as nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

I applaud the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee for her award last night as The House magazine’s Back-Bencher of the year.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for that reply. May I join him in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel) on her award?

Today, we remember the 52 victims of the 7 July bombings and their bereaved families. The terrible pain that they must still feel will be shared across the House. That anyone could have tried to exploit their raw grief to sell newspapers shows exactly why yesterday’s debate was so important. The best way to uphold the kind of journalism that we respect is to root out the kind of journalism that none of us can stomach. I have, therefore, three questions to ask the Leader of the House.

The first is on the public inquiry, which must be judge-led. I welcome the Government’s swift change of mind since the Deputy Prime Minister rejected an inquiry on Tuesday. When will we have a statement setting out how the inquiry will be established, who will chair it and what its powers will be? Can we be assured that it will cover the culture and practices that led to what happened, the nature of regulation, and the relationship between the police and the media?

Can we have an urgent statement from the Home Secretary? The Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 makes it an offence for anyone to pay money to a police officer or for any officer to receive it. The House wants to be assured now that whatever the current investigation reveals, including on the allegation that the Prime Minister’s former director of communications sanctioned payments to police officers while he was at the News of the World, this practice is no longer happening anywhere. The Home Secretary has so far been conspicuous by her absence. It is time she came to the House to answer questions.

Can we have an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport on the BSkyB bid? It was clear yesterday that the House will no longer accept the course of action that he has been intent upon. In the light of what has been revealed about the activities at News International, this matter must now be referred to the Competition Commission.

Last week, I asked for a statement by the Secretary of State for Transport on the award of the contract to build 1,200 Thameslink train carriages to Siemens. It turns out that at the same time as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was in Madrid telling British employers to give British jobs to British workers, his Cabinet colleagues were having to explain why they had given a contract for British trains to German workers. Instead of blaming the procurement process, the Ministers who took this decision need to explain what they propose to do, given that this week Bombardier announced that 1,429 skilled workers in Derby, long the proud home of train manufacturing in Britain, will lose their jobs. So much for all the Government’s empty words about British manufacturing.

In welcoming the £38 million in British aid announced this week to help the millions facing starvation in the horn of Africa, may I ask for a debate on the food crisis affecting our fellow human beings there? The world cannot make it rain, but we can and must lend a hand.

May we have a statement on housing benefit from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government so that he can explain the letter that he authorised his private secretary to send to the Prime Minister’s office in January? It revealed that the Government’s housing benefit plans could make 40,000 people homeless, cut house building and end up not saving money but costing it. Yet while raising those “very serious practical issues” in private, the Communities Secretary was saying in public that he backed what the Government were doing.

The House also wants to know which Minister knew what and when about that information, which was clearly available back in January but was not revealed during the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill. Here is another policy that just has not been thought through. Only Conservative Ministers could come up with a housing policy that makes people homeless and costs taxpayers more.

Finally, may we have a debate on prime ministerial authority? Asked two weeks ago about the threat by his Tory MEPs to oppose tougher carbon emission targets, the Prime Minister promised the House that he would “work on” them. What happened? Such is his diminished influence that a majority of them simply ignored his pleas and voted against a binding 30% reduction this week.

I have a suggestion that might help. The next time Tory MEPs are rebelling on climate change, perhaps the Communities Secretary could offer to assist. Famous for his lecturing of local government about belt-tightening, it seems that he has recently replaced his £20,000 fuel-efficient ministerial Prius with a £70,000 Jaguar. Perhaps he could offer to drive over to Strasbourg and remind his Tory colleagues just how important it is to cut carbon emissions.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. The Deputy Leader of the House and myself travel almost everywhere by bicycle, so we are making our contribution to energy saving, and we have a very small carbon footprint between us.

May I begin with the serious issue that the right hon. Gentleman raised? Yesterday’s debate marked a sea change in the House’s perception of certain sections of the press, which I think reflects a much broader change in how the public now view the allegations. They have been made even worse by the allegations in the press today that the families of soldiers who have fallen had their phones tapped. It was a good debate, because the mover of the motion and many others who spoke from throughout the House understood and recognised that it was not a party political issue.

The Government are now looking at two inquiries. The first is on the specifics of the original police investigation and why it did not uncover some of the allegations that are now emerging, and the second is on the wider issue of media ethics, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. There is a relationship between those two inquiries, which means that we will have to give careful thought to their terms of reference and their relationship with the ongoing police investigation. We will consult widely on the terms of reference, including with the Joint Committee on privacy, party leaders and the Cabinet Secretary. We want to get this right, and we plan to make an announcement to the House before Parliament rises for the summer recess. I will pass the right hon. Gentleman’s questions on to the Home Secretary, who will be in the House today for Second Reading of the Police (Detention and Bail) Bill.

On BSkyB, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport is acting in a quasi-judicial way, and it is quite right that he carries out his role in that manner without any interference from anyone else in the Government. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, my right hon. Friend was on the Treasury Bench for the debate yesterday and will have heard what the House said. Yesterday’s debate was about newspapers not being above the law, and it is quite right that Ministers are not above the law either.

On Bombardier, the right hon. Gentleman sought to dismiss the way in which the procurement process was designed and initiated by the previous Government. As I have just said, newspapers are not above the law, but Ministers are not above the law either. We are bound by the criteria that the previous Government set out, and we must continue with the decision that has been made according to those criteria. Of course, any job losses are regrettable, but Bombardier had previously advised the Government that it expected to make 1,000 redundancies at this time, regardless of the outcome of the Thameslink procurement, as several of its existing orders had reached completion. Derby is a priority area for the European regional development fund under the east midlands programme. I understand that a large amount of the £6.6 million ERDF funding available for Derby to use for suitable projects is still available, and there are six bids from Derby for the regional growth fund.

Turning to the Department for International Development, the shadow Leader of the House will have seen the written ministerial statement by the Secretary of State for International Development on 6 July. He is holding a briefing on the horn of Africa at 5 pm this evening in room 15 and will update colleagues if they go along. The shadow Leader of the House will have seen in the ministerial statement that the Government have contributed help with food for 1.3 million Ethiopians for three months as well as helping to tackle the problem of hundreds of thousands of starving children.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has replied to the shadow Secretary of State and placed the letter in the Library. The letter deals with all the questions raised by the shadow Leader of the House. I note in particular that Secretary of State says that

“since it was written, the Government has said it will be looking at transitional arrangements for particularly hard cases. We are putting in a series of policy measures to assist local authorities with that transition, and to provide considerable financial support to tackle homelessness.”

He goes on to say:

“I…hope Her Majesty’s Opposition can support”

the benefit cap,

“not least since it was in the Labour Party’s general election manifesto.”

The matter of Conservative MEPs and climate change was covered in the exchange that just took place in Department of Energy and Climate Change questions. Of course, we are disappointed about the European Parliament vote, but I am sorry that when it came to voting on the amended report as a whole, Conservative MEPs mostly voted in favour, and Labour MEPs largely voted against.

On 12 May, the House tasked the Members’ Allowances Committee to review the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. I welcome the Leader of the House’s support in doing so, but there is a motion on today’s Order Paper that suggests, on the face of it, that the remit of the Committee should be restricted to looking at expenses. It looks that way, but I feel sure that that is not what the Leader of the House is seeking to do, and that he wants to ensure that a full review takes place. I just invite him, to save time this afternoon, to make it absolutely clear that the motion will not restrict the Committee from conducting a full review into all aspects of the 2009 Act.

Following the debate that my hon. Friend initiated, we had informal discussions with him, and I tabled a motion earlier this week that, as I understood it, met all his concerns and provided the right remit. I was very sorry that the motion was blocked on two occasions, and of course, amendments to it have been tabled, which automatically blocks it. I cannot undertake to find time between now and the end of the Session to debate this particularly important issue. I very much hope that those who blocked the motion or tabled amendments to it will think again, and enable us to make progress and set up the Committee as it was originally envisaged.

When can we have a debate, and indeed some action, on the shocking situation whereby Sinn Fein MPs, who refuse to recognise this Parliament or Her Majesty the Queen, still get their huge allowances and travel expenses? When will we accept that if they will not accept this Parliament’s rule, they cannot accept British money?

The Government’s view is that all hon. Members who have been elected to the House should take their place in it. We see no reason why that should not happen. As I said in business questions last week, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is having discussions with the parties in Northern Ireland with a view to bringing that unsatisfactory situation to a satisfactory conclusion.

The major development in my constituency—the South Humber gateway project—is delayed yet again by Government agencies, particularly Natural England, carrying out their duties within the planning process. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the role of those agencies in planning, because it is causing severe problems, and we need the jobs?

I announced a debate on Monday week on national planning statements, and it may be that the hon. Gentleman can intervene in that. Failing that, the Adjournment debate on the last day may be an appropriate opportunity for him to raise the matter at greater length.

The Leader of the House has been extremely supportive in my many and varied disputes with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and I am genuinely grateful to him for that. I copied him into my recent letter complaining that my constituency office rent for the last quarter of 2010, which was submitted in December, has still not been paid. Since then I have been asked by IPSA, on two occasions, to resubmit the same claim each with a different and fictional date attached so that the computer can cope with it. The situation is descending into a cross between a “Carry On” movie and a Kafka novel. If the Government are so keen to clean up the so-called mess left behind by the last Government, he could do an awful lot worse than clean up the mess that is the failed and failing organisation that is IPSA.

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has been diverted from his serious duties of representing his constituents in this House by the issues that he has just described. I will raise it with IPSA later today and see whether we can resolve it. I draw to his attention, and to the attention of the House, the National Audit Office report on IPSA, which was published today and, I hope, will provide the basis for a more satisfactory relationship between the House and IPSA. The report refers to the “adversarial relationship” that has developed between IPSA and many MPs, and I hope that some of the recommendations in the report will enable us to move on to a more harmonious basis.

My right hon. Friend will have noticed the rising tide of rivalry between the west and China. Does he agree that this presents a unique opportunity for the United Kingdom and her extraordinary, exceptional and unique network based in the Commonwealth to move into that space with the countries of the Arab spring and the African countries seeking prosperity and stability? Will he arrange time for a debate on this subject which touches on the future prosperity and success of this country?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I will of course draw his remarks to the attention of the Foreign Secretary. Later this month, there is a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference, which may be an opportunity to raise the profile of the subject on a much broader plane. He is right that there is an opportunity to fill the vacuum, and I will draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) said, today is the sixth anniversary of the bombings on the London underground, and the victims and their families are in our thoughts. Can the Leader of the House tell us when the Government will bring forward their legislation to water down control orders and why his Government are so determined to introduce legislation that would give those who would aid and abet terrorism increased access to mobile phones and computers; put increased pressure on the security services by requiring them to increase surveillance; and place the public at greater risk?

The right hon. Gentleman is right to remind the House of the bombings six years ago today, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. The issue that he raised is subject to legislation before the House in the form of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill and I hope that he, or his colleagues in the other place, will have an opportunity to raise their concerns.

Has my hon. Friend seen early-day motion 2037 about the disgraceful decision by Diva magazine to rescind a work placement that they had originally offered to Harlow college student Simone Webb on the grounds that she was not rich enough to afford her bus fare and did not have independent means?

[That this House notes that Simone Webb is a 17 year old Harlow College student hoping to study at Oxford University; further notes that she was offered a one month unpaid internship at DIVA magazine, but was later refused on the grounds that she hoped to be reimbursed just £5 transport expenses a day, and was told that DIVA was ‘uncomfortable’ offering her an internship as she was ‘so young and without an independent budget of [her] own’; believes that barriers of this kind are a major threat to social mobility and that this is an outrageous example of internships being abused; and calls for DIVA magazine to pay reasonable transport expenses where it can, and to drop its discriminatory policy of refusing to employ people who lack ‘an independent budget’.]

May we have an urgent debate on social mobility to ensure that work experience and internships are available to the many, not the few?

My hon. Friend is right: internships should be available according to not who you know, but what you know. The House has set an example with the internships that have recently been announced. We are committed to social mobility and we encourage businesses to offer internships openly and transparently and to provide financial support to ensure fair access.

Could the Leader of the House tell us what contingency provisions he has made for the House to return and have a debate in the event of a Greek default during the summer recess?

There are always questions about recalling the House during the summer recess, but they are normally slighter closer to the recess. The hon. Lady raises an important issue. The issue of recall is a matter for the Government, after contacting Mr Speaker. If the situation arises, the Government will take the necessary steps to recall the House.

I do not know if you tweet, Mr Speaker, but may I direct you to a person called “Mrs Jennie Bone” on Twitter, who is being followed by more than 100 people, including journalists and Members of Parliament? It is very interesting and amusing, but with one slight problem—it is completely bogus. This is a really important issue if people are taking other people’s names and purporting to be them. While that person is saying funny things at the moment, they could put up something racist or pornographic at any time. So may we have a statement about people taking over other people’s identity on the internet?

You may not tweet, Mr Speaker, but I believe that you know somebody who does. My hon. Friend raises a serious issue about impersonation, and I wonder whether I might encourage him to take part in the debate that he has helped to organise on the last day before the recess, when there may be an opportunity to debate this at greater length and give advice to those who find themselves facing the same difficulty.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House would agree to a debate in Government time on sector-specific support for the UK film and media sector. I raise that issue because I have a particular interest in promoting a scheme in my locality—the Centre of Creative Excellence in Seaham. The difficulty that we have is that the three pillars of support that were there previously—the regional development agency, Northern Film and Media and the UK Film Council—and grant aid through Durham county council have been withdrawn. We need to know how we can make progress on this and create 1,200 jobs and apprenticeships.

I agree that we should do all we can to support the UK film and media industry, which is one of our success stories. There will be an opportunity a week today to raise this issue with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in either an oral question or a topical question, but in the meantime, I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s concern to the attention of my right hon. Friends so that they know where he is coming from.

May we have an urgent debate on media regulation, given that Ofcom declines to exercise the fit and proper person test in relation to News International despite certain News of the World reporters having been jailed for their actions in the course of their work and the testimony of its executives before Parliament having been seriously undermined by the revelations that we have witnessed this week?

I understand what my hon. Friend says, and he may have seen the exchange that took place on 30 June, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport answered an urgent question. He said:

“Before coming to such a view”—

on the application before him—

“I will of course seek once again the advice of the independent external regulators.”—[Official Report, 30 June 2011; Vol. 530, c. 1107.]

That includes Ofcom and, of course, the Office of Fair Trading.

We need that urgent debate on the BSkyB/News Corp takeover because yesterday we had the ludicrous spectacle of the Culture Secretary communicating with the House of Commons by whispering in the ear of the Government’s lawyer, as if he were on trial at the Old Bailey. Should not the Culture Secretary man up and take the stand himself by making an urgent statement today at the Dispatch Box?

I think the hon. Gentleman is somewhat unfair. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was intervening in a debate and speaking about his own responsibilities. He generously took questions that related to another Minister’s responsibilities and, in answering them, he sensibly took advice. As the Prime Minister has said, Ministers in this Government talk to each other.

One of the most difficult educational problems we face in Tamworth is that not enough young people aspire to go to university. May we have a debate on the pupil premium and how over time it can drive up aspiration among our most disadvantaged young people and encourage more of them to go to university?

There will be Education questions on Monday, but my hon. Friend is right, and I hope that the pupil premium will enable more pupils from low-income families to aspire to university. The figures at the moment are deeply depressing, and I hope that as the pupil premium feeds through the education system, more children who would not otherwise have considered a university education will find it accessible to them.

This week I saw figures from my constituency showing that demand for debt advice over the past year has risen dramatically, yet opening hours of citizen advice bureaux are falling dramatically. May we have a debate on how we might support people who need help during this crisis in CABs?

I applaud the work of the CABs, which are indeed under greater pressure. I attended a reception that other colleagues might have attended earlier this week on the Terrace at which my right hon. and learned Friend the Justice Secretary outlined the support that the Government were giving to CABs to help them cope. Hon. Members will have an opportunity next Thursday to ask Ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about CABs.

Amid the chaos of north Africa, last week the Kingdom of Morocco quietly, efficiently and peacefully conducted a referendum that will usher in far-reaching constitutional changes that I am sure we will all welcome. In the context of the Arab spring, may we have a debate on how this commendable model can be exported in a region which is too often reliant on violent disorder and bloody civil war to usher in change?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising the profile of a good example of how orderly reform can take place. There will be an opportunity at Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions on 19 July to ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about that matter and about how the example of Morocco might be spread more widely.

The Leader of the House will realise that this is the 10th anniversary of the dreadful Bradford riots. May we have an early opportunity to debate the progress made since then? In that debate, may we discuss how the cutting of youth services and of courses for English as a second language and the inability to integrate so many schools in our major cities will come back to haunt us?

I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s point, but he will recognise that if his party had won the last election it would have had to take some difficult decisions that might have had exactly the same impact on youth services.

May we have a debate on the crisis in the horn of Africa, looking particularly at the work done by the Department for International Development? The UN estimates that about 10 million people face food shortages or starvation. The assistance being provided by DFID is precisely the sort of practical, targeted aid that makes a difference and which we should encourage.

I repeat what I said a few moments ago and draw the House’s attention to the written ministerial statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development outlining the extensive support that the Government are giving to the horn of Africa and urging other countries to match our contribution. As I said, later today my right hon. Friend is giving a briefing to colleagues to which my hon. Friend is welcome to come.

May we have a statement before the recess on two important human rights issues? The first is the continuing detention of hundreds of children at Heathrow despite a coalition promise last year that the practice would end. Secondly, it appears that the Government’s plans for an inquiry into the UK’s role in torture and rendition are in complete disarray after human rights groups labelled the inquiry a sham and lawyers and witnesses said that they were going to boycott it.

On the first point, it is indeed our intention to phase out the detention of children, and I will draw the Home Secretary’s attention to the matter. I will also raise the second issue with the appropriate Minister—either the Home Secretary or the Foreign Secretary.

I do not know whether the Leader of the House reads The Times over breakfast, but if he does, this morning he will have noticed that the share price of News Corp has fallen by 3.6% and that companies as diverse as Ford, the Co-op, Butlins and, I am pleased to say, the state-controlled Lloyds Banking Group have withdrawn their advertising from the News of the World. Will he ask a Cabinet Office colleague to make a statement to the House on the level of Government expenditure on advertising with News International titles? Where private business and investors have given a lead, could not the Government now follow?

I read a digital version of The Times at 5.30 this morning, but I am not sure that all the advertisements appear in the digital version. However, my hon. Friend raises an important issue about whether the Government should continue to sponsor advertisements when the private sector has acted as he mentioned. I will raise the matter urgently with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr Maude), and see whether the House can be kept in the picture.

There are increasing numbers of complaints from colleagues about being refused meetings with Ministers on constituency matters. I do not include the Leader of the House in this complaint—I never heard such a complaint made about him while he was a departmental Minister—but as he knows, the fundamental route for Members in pursuing constituency cases is through such meetings. May we therefore have a debate to air this issue, and will he lay down proper guidelines for his fellow Ministers?

The right hon. Gentleman raises a serious issue. I would welcome more information, if he is prepared to let me have it, on the exact instances in which my right hon. and hon. Friends have refused to meet hon. Members. I think that there is a convention that, unless there are strong legal reasons not to do so, Ministers should meet MPs. If he could give me an appropriate list, I would be more than happy to take it up with my colleagues and facilitate every appropriate meeting.

In November, the United Kingdom will take over the chairmanship of the Council of Europe. In view of the persistent attacks that this body, including the European Court of Human Rights, has inflicted on this country, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that we will have a debate in Government time before November so that Members can debate and influence how we can reform that out-of-touch institution?

I know that this is a matter of concern to my hon. Friend and other of my hon. Friends. Work is under way to agree UK objectives and priorities for our chairmanship of the Council of Europe. That includes consultation, as appropriate, with interested parties, and I will certainly feed into that consultation the issue that my hon. Friend has just raised.

I am sure that the Leader of the House is aware that The Daily Telegraph has said that we need a checklist of the Prime Minister’s social meetings with Rebekah Brooks. May we have a statement about those meetings and what was discussed?

My right hon. Friend and all Ministers are obliged to publish regularly details of meetings that they have had with commercial organisations. I am sure that this Government, like the previous one, will continue to observe the relevant parts of the ministerial code.

In March a constituent of mine, Rebecca Coriam, disappeared while working for a British employment agency on a Bahamian-registered, American-based Disney cruise ship in international waters off the coast of Mexico. Despite an investigation by the Bahamas Maritime Authority, her family are still awaiting news of their daughter. May we have a debate on the safety and regulation of cruise ships that would enable me to highlight the difficulties faced by those trying to identify the facts and the responsibility behind events at sea?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. I believe that the Minister with responsibility for shipping is aware of that case and understands my hon. Friend’s concerns, and is happy to meet him and the family to discuss how we might take the matter forward.

There has been cross-party and international support for Sakineh Ashtiani, who remains alive but still under threat of execution while her male co-accused is free. May we have an urgent debate on cases such as hers and that of Aung San Suu Kyi—women who are victims of repressive regimes—so that their cases are not forgotten?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. It is monstrous that Ms Ashtiani remains in prison having not had fair representation at her trial and having gone through a terrible year, not knowing whether on any given day she would be executed. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary continues to make representations about her case to the Iranian authorities. It was highlighted in the press today how important it is that continuing pressure be kept on Iran to release this lady as soon as possible.

The Leader of the House might be aware that there is a plan in Parliament for a stained glass window to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee. It is attracting support from both sides of the House and in both Houses of Parliament. Will my right hon. Friend elucidate on any plans for a Loyal or Humble Address from Parliament for Her Majesty’s visit next year during her diamond jubilee?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the initiative he has taken in raising funds for the stained glass window—I have sent an envelope with something in it to the appropriate authorities. You will have heard what my hon. Friend has said, Mr Speaker, and I am sure that when we come to celebrate the event, there will be an appropriate opportunity for an Address to Her Majesty.

In the past 24 hours, Portuguese Government debt has been downgraded to junk status. At a time when the Government are increasing their contribution to the IMF from £10 billion to £20 billion this year, may we have an urgent debate to ensure that taxpayers in this country are protected from the contamination in the eurozone?

It is worth remembering that it was exactly to avoid the problems that confront Portugal that this coalition Government had to take some difficult decisions last year to clear up the mess that the hon. Gentleman left behind. There will be an opportunity to ask questions to my hon. Friends at the Treasury, but what Moody’s has done to Portugal is a reminder that we need responsible housekeeping here in the UK.

Young people in Great Yarmouth are already starting to see the benefits of more apprenticeships and growth in the tourism and energy sectors, partly thanks to the Government’s strategy and work, so may we have a debate on youth employment, in order to highlight some of the opportunities and growth in that area?

There will be an opportunity in a week’s time to raise the issue of apprenticeships with Ministers at BIS. It is good news that youth unemployment has now fallen below the level that we inherited. With initiatives such as apprenticeships, we hope to make further progress in reducing the level as the economy picks up.

A report in The Independent today shows that research by the Medical Research Council at its laboratory in Cambridge has concluded that alcohol damages the DNA of unborn children beyond repair. Given that Britain has a serious problem with binge drinking among young women and one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world, is it not likely that thousands of babies are being born damaged as a result of teenagers drinking while pregnant? May we have an urgent debate about what can be done to address this serious matter?

The hon. Gentleman raises a serious issue. I hope that pregnant women will have heard what he said and will drink sensibly while carrying their child. There will be an opportunity at Health questions next Tuesday to raise the matter further with Health Ministers, but I will warn them in advance that the hon. Gentleman is pursuing the issue. I am sure that he has wide support in all parts of the House for encouraging a sensible approach to alcohol that will safeguard the health of the next generation.

The important question of the way in which electronic devices such as iPads can and should be used in this Chamber and in Committee is delicately balanced between the split Procedure Committee report—which recommended their unfettered use for twittering and all the rest of it—and those of us who believe that their use ought to be much more constrained. Does the Leader of the House agree that this subject is worthy of a full, reasoned and careful debate, that it should not be rushed through in the short time between now and the recess, and that it should therefore be allowed—presumably—an hour and a half after the summer recess?

My hon. Friend will know that we had planned to debate this issue, but the need for urgent legislation to deal with police bail meant that the debate in the time allocated to the Backbench Business Committee had to be postponed. I agree with him that it is important that we should make progress on the issue. I happen to take a different view from the one that he espouses: I am broadly in favour of hand-held devices. I agree that, as soon as we can find the time, the issue should be resolved, but I cannot promise a debate between now and the summer recess.

May we have a debate about extending the benefits of Northern Ireland’s McCallister Bill across the United Kingdom? In my constituency, Tingdene, a company that owns Hazelgrove caravan park, thoroughly intimidates and abuses its customers on that site, many of whom are pensioners in their latter years who have saved over their lives to retire in comfort.

Many Members would like to amend the legislation on mobile homes, as I am sure that many with mobile home parks in their constituencies have similar cases to the one that the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned, which I will raise with Ministers at DCLG. There is no legislation imminent, but I think I am right in saying that they have the existing legislation under review.

The Leader of the House will be aware that we are currently in co-operatives fortnight. May we have an urgent debate about the importance of developing co-operative and mutual models, particularly for the delivery of public sector services?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I would like to be as co-operative as I can. The coalition agreement sets out commitments to public service mutuals that are being taken forward by the Cabinet Office, and I hope that there might be an initiative in that direction before the House rises.

With the Committee stage starting next week on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill—a Bill that will have major consequences for not-for-profit advice agencies—can the Leader of the House tell us when the review of advice services is likely to be completed and when a statement will be made to this House?

The short answer is that I do not have that information at my fingertips, but I will get an answer from the appropriate Minister and communicate it to the hon. Lady.

May we have a debate on the fairness of supermarkets apparently undercutting independent fuel service stations, which is sadly forcing many independent forecourts to close?

My hon. Friend raises an issue that many Members will have confronted. Independent petrol stations are finding it tough at the moment, as the purchasing power of supermarkets is enabling them to undercut independents. This is a matter for the Office of Fair Trading, and I strongly encourage my hon. Friend to raise it with that body.

I see that the Prime Minister has promised to restrict the use of business-class flights for Ministers and officials. I am anxious that this policy should be rather more successful than the promise to restrict the use of ministerial cars, so could we have a statement about how it will be implemented and reported to the House, so that we can measure progress on that promise?

One of the first things that this Administration did was to bring to an end contracts for individual cars for individual Ministers. When the figures are published, I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that there has been a substantial saving in the cost of ministerial transport under the coalition Government.

May we have a debate on the role of local authorities in providing residential care for vulnerable older people, including those with dementia? Labour-run Leeds city council has caused uproar by announcing a raft of residential care home closures, including Spring Gardens in Otley, without offering any alternative provision to its 27 residents or any plan for where they might go.

My hon. Friend raises an important issue that I hope the Dilnot report will begin to address. At some point we need a serious discussion about how we will fund residential and social care in future, in order to avoid the sort of decisions to which he has just referred.

May we have an urgent debate or statement from the Prime Minister on the phone hacking scandal, to give him the opportunity to say how he will remove himself from any inquiry, given his close relationship with the Murdoch corporation? Secondly, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that any investigation will be run by a judge and not by one of the Prime Minister’s cronies?

On the second issue, as I said in response to the shadow Leader of the House, we are consulting Opposition party leaders and others about the precise terms of reference and composition of the inquiry. The hon. Gentleman asked for a statement by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was at the Dispatch Box yesterday, and he indeed made such a statement.

Harrow PCT and Harrow council successfully bid for £2.6 million from the Department of Health for support for adult social care. Some £500,000 went to the PCT, which is applying the money correctly, but I understand that Labour-run Harrow council is using that £2.1 million to fund redundancies, to support its website and for other illicit purposes. May we have an urgent statement from the Department of Health on the millions of pounds of public money going into supporting adult social care, to ensure that it is spent on the purposes for which it is intended?

My hon. Friend is right: we allocated money to PCTs with the specific objective of transferring it through to local authorities to be used to fund social care. That was the precise objective. We asked PCTs to work with local authorities to agree jointly on appropriate areas for social care investment. I will raise what my hon. Friend has said with a Health Minister.

The Charity Commission has recently completed a strategic review to determine how Government spending cuts will affect staff in its organisation. Draft proposals show up to 42% of staff at the Liverpool office being made redundant, with a large amount of those staff on lower pay grades. In view of the urgency of the situation and the threat of job losses in Liverpool, may we please have an urgent debate on how Government cuts to the charitable sector are affecting the lowest paid?

I hope that the hon. Lady will concede that we took a number of initiatives in the Budget to promote giving to the charitable sector. We also set up a transitional fund to help charities through what is a difficult time. There will be an opportunity on the final day before the recess for the hon. Lady to speak in one of the Adjournment debates that I announced at the beginning of business questions.

May we have a debate on the administration and regulation of the Arch Cru investment fund? Some 20,000 people were left hanging when the fund was suspended two years ago. A compensation package has been offered by some of the stakeholders involved, but it is highly conditional and seems quite inadequate.

I am sorry to hear about the investors who lost their funds in the Arch Cru debacle. On 21 June, the Financial Services Authority announced a £54 million package for the investors, to which my hon. Friend has just referred. This is a matter for the FSA. The package will be used to make payments to eligible investors in Arch Cru funds, and will assist the return of a substantial part of their investment to them. I suggest that my hon. Friend pursue the matter further with the FSA.

May I press the Leader of the House to update us on when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs proposes to publish its water White Paper?

Ministers have made a commitment to publish a water White Paper, and it will be published by December 2011. It will cover England only, but it will be developed in close conjunction with the Welsh Assembly Government.

Of course I welcome the Government’s change of mind on a public inquiry into phone hacking, but may I urge the Leader of the House to ensure that that inquiry is led by a judge, that it is a statutory inquiry with full powers to subpoena evidence and witnesses, that witnesses will be able to give evidence on oath, that it will look not only at the broad issues but specifically at what happened at the News of the World, and that it can start as soon as is possible and practicable to gather the evidence before it is destroyed at the News of the World?

I commend the hon. Gentleman for his initiative in generating the debate on this matter, and indeed for what he said yesterday. The inquiries will be independent and they will be in public. I note what he has said about the specific format of the inquiries, and that will form part of the consultation process in which we are now engaged.

Last week, the Deputy Prime Minister made the following announcement at a conference in Birmingham:

“We will localise…business rates. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.”

The localisation of business rates is a key policy change that could make the difference to the city of Salford of a loss of £36 million, while the City of London could gain £550 million. May we therefore have an urgent debate on the Government’s intentions for local government finance, so that Members can ask the questions that they should have been able to ask last week?

If the hon. Lady looks at the coalition agreement, she will see a clear statement of our intention to make local government finance more independent of central Government. We will be consulting in due course on the specific issue of business rates.

I am saddened to tell the Leader of the House that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hull branch is due to close because of funding problems. May we have a debate on the big society and its practical implications for the vast parts of this country that are poorer and more deprived and do not have the same access to funding and resources as other parts?

I was sorry to hear about the problems that are confronting the local branch of the RSPCA in the hon. Lady’s constituency. The RSPCA has one of the broadest bases of funding in the country. It is a very well supported and well respected organisation, and I was sorry to hear about that particular decision. As I said a few moments ago, we have made available transitional funding to help certain charities to get through a difficult time, but I am sorry that I cannot offer any immediate assistance to her local branch.

In the recent past, there were far more opportunities to discuss Welsh issues on the Floor of the House in the presence of the Secretary of State for Wales, but we now have only Welsh questions. Would the Leader of the House be amenable to discussing with the Secretary of State more opportunities to talk about Welsh issues, especially in view of the disproportionate effect of the cuts on Wales?

I understand the hon. Lady’s concern. She will know that, under the recommendations of the Wright Committee, responsibility for allocating days for debate other than on Government legislation now falls to the Backbench Business Committee, whose Chair will have heard her plea.

The Fukushima disaster continues and intensifies, with three reactors still in melt-through and leaking radiation without any chance or hope of remedy. The investigation taking place in Britain excludes any consideration of cost, but cost is the main consequence for Britain in increased charges for guarding power stations against a nuclear attack or unexpected natural event, so should not we in the House be doing the job that Weightman is forbidden to do?

Weightman is doing the task that he was asked to do. We have had the first stage of his report, and we will then address the second. On Monday week, we will be dealing with national planning policy statements, and the hon. Gentleman might have an opportunity to raise these issues again in that debate.

May we have an urgent statement from the Housing Minister on the crisis of rogue landlords in the private rented sector, following a series of television exposés, including “Dispatches” on Channel 4 on Monday night, which showed one landlord, who was operating as a charity, boasting that he could break the law and that he would sort his tenants out with a baseball bat? Tens of thousands of people are trapped with poor or rogue landlords in the private rented sector. Following the programme, the Housing Minister was bombarded on Twitter, to which he replied. May we have an urgent statement from the Minister about his comments?

It is a serious offence, punishable by imprisonment, to threaten a tenant in the way that the hon. Gentleman has just described. I will draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Housing Minister and ask whether there is any action that he should be taking in the light of that television programme.

I thank the Leader of the House and other Members for their pithiness, which has enabled all 46 Back Benchers who wanted to contribute to do so.